Rick lived in Himeji for over thirteen months. He spent a lot of time walking around the moat, admiring the castle, photographing it and the surrounding grounds in all seasons. He was hired by the city of Himeji to write all the English signage on the castle grounds and within the castle. That was over thirty years ago, not too long before I met him in Chiba.
Today the signage is different. There are signage warnings with drawings depicting how using selfie sticks can lead to electrocution if the stick hits an electrical wire. There are warnings not to talk and text with drawings that show a texting-walking figure colliding with a wall. Modernization has taken root, but the castle itself remains a preserved beauty.
The city of Himeji was hit by air raids twice during WWII and the town was in ashes. However, the snow-white Himeji Castle was miraculously unharmed by the air raids of WWII. In fact, wars, fires, and natural disasters have left this castle entirely intact and have not affected the structure in any way! Last year the castle was fully renovated, fortified, painted, and earthquake-proofed. Even though yesterday was a national holiday and the castle was absolutely packed with other visitors, we felt so lucky to be able to walk inside and see this incredible structure!
Himeji Castle was build over 600 years ago (the building of the castle started in 1331). This national treasure, also known as the White Heron (some refer to it as a white egret), is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It comes complete with a moat, 21 gates, 32 tall stone curving walls, firing holes, towers, thick latticed lacquered windows, wooden flooring, and incredible tile work on the roof bearing eight different family crests on the ridge end-tiles. Himeji Castle offers unique defenses that many other Japanese castles do not include, such as the path maze leading to the castle:
The path maze to the main keep includes many dead ends, to prevent attackers from entering and allowing those inside to defend much more effectively.
It took us about 45 minutes to walk through the castle. The views from the top were breathtaking. We could not have had a more beautiful day to do this tour.